» Poetry

Five Poems from Atopia

I like to photograph old signs 
when I drive along the Emerald Coast.
“Florida Hotel: American Owned” and
“Rachel’s Restaurant” I dreamed 
a beautiful poem up by the sea but
forgot it by morning; Make America 
Great Again vs Occupy Wall Street.
We talked about extreme weather 
and the stock market in the Gulf,
the water fluctuating around the sun
and pelicans, text message alerts
for tornados and when I got home 
I googled sinkholes and clicked on
the interactive map—14 by 12 foot,
8 by 6, 1 by 1, and read the warning 
signs, maybe the doors to your house
don’t close, maybe there are cracks
in the walls, maybe there are depressions
in your lawn, now imagine a bed
and furniture instantly falling into
the lawmaker’s hand holding up a piece
of limestone talking about an amendment
which will outlaw fracking in Florida forever 
“I’ve changed positions,” she says, “Look
at this limestone. It’s fragile. It’s porous”
and wishing I remembered my dream
of the sea by the sea, the dream enclosed
in the bulb of the sun, my body
covered by seawater, “It was almost
like there were colored rings around
the sun” your dad, the archaeologist, said
and driving home, the eye-level pelicans
and their prehistoric flight, seemed
calm, the bridge both flowing into
and forged by the metallic clouds

Philomel, lost cause, not quite, operatic as doves
 the oatmeal is cooking this morning and it will be a long
hurricane season from June
 to October, that season of hell as we approach
 an apocalypse, as showers fill the heart unable

 to process what is happening.
 Alone in your cabin, the outside world
 has a tongue, has words, scrolled
 and scrawled along the ridges of the bleak sky. 

 Oh Philomel, I have no pictures to post, no landscapes
 to paint, my song is sung in vain, and it is composed 
 of rubble. Fear not, Philomel.
Now the oatmeal burns inside its weeping pot
 and revenge is its own constellation of anguish,
 its own pattern of swallows moving across
 the luxuriant atmosphere.

 Personal history? What can we really
 make of it after so many years? 

 The metal bends, the apartment saturated with ash.

Our masters shift; this is the definition 
of domination
Still, Esmerelda, if you would like to take 
a dip in the filthy lake, I’m game 
and if you still have the impulse to be mesmerized by love,
I’m down for that too

I can even transform into a nude before your very eyes 
I promise
I can become just like a painting of paradise from the olden days

We could do this for a little while
before we have to go back to work again

inside the impenetrable flesh factory
where the meat screams

even though it is already dead
I’ve never known why this is 

Why does it scream night and day?
Maybe because it has no identity 

Esmerelda, they want our blood because 
they must know how sunny it is

how, long ago, we fed the horses and wept and sang 
by the fireplace; they must know

that we had such intense passions, 
that we thought the grasshoppers

eating the yellow fields were beautiful

and we looked at both the creatures
and the fields with a kind of awe

Our masters did not like this and our passions 
had to be held down
by a corresponding cruelty

the formal laws of the state
O the networks
of subjection are infinite

Read of an ICE raid: men, women and children sent to a detention center in Crawfordville, Florida Turn the page Bought erasers, pencils and summer workbooks for my children This is a cell All living things are made of cells This is the earth The earth is always changing If lyric poetry is cruel, I am forlorn at the loss of our wilderness There really is an “anti-parks” congressional caucus whose aim is to shovel the plants and rocks and trees into black plastic bags and throw those bags into the sea It is important to stay safe in Science How do we stay safe? Follow the rules and use the right tools The goddesses of Sunday welcome you We bring you this bowl of peaches and serve you with our porcelain fingers Here is a napkin Here is a knife Your wife and children are welcome too
Glandular fever punctuated by tropical storm Cindy which was a dud; many weeks of rain, the lymph nodes swollen, many weeks of wind while my children play inside the supernova-like sinkhole, Green tea and raw honey even though bees struggle for survival, Alex searching for climate-controlled storage spaces, I yelled at everyone, the black diamond and rattlesnake rattle fell upon me, I could tell you were trying to communicate, I suspected it was your fault, seizure like substance of air turned to current, maybe I blamed you for my illness, I knew you were the one taking me down through this amber realm, this dream space, fragile, filled with neurons, jammed with signals signals from the dead, then the realm spilled into the black hole of the summer solstice and out of the storm; O Angel, you were born.

Sandra Simonds

Sandra Simonds is the author of six books of poetry: Orlando (Wave Books, forthcoming in 2018); Further Problems with Pleasure, winner of the 2015 Akron Poetry Prize (University of Akron Press, 2016); Steal It Back (Saturnalia Books, 2015); The Sonnets (Bloof Books, 2014); Mother Was a Tragic Girl (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2012); and Warsaw Bikini (Bloof Books, 2009). Her poems have been included in the Best American Poetry 2015 and 2014 and have appeared in many literary journals, including Poetry, the American Poetry Review, the Chicago Review, Granta, Boston ReviewPloughshares, Fence, Court Green, and Lana Turner. In 2013, she won a Readers’ Choice Award for her sonnet “Red Wand,” which was published on Poets.org, the Academy of American Poets website. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida, and is an associate professor of English and Humanities at Thomas University in Thomasville, Georgia.